ElBaradei: GiveIran 'One Last Chance' Before Sanctions

Kenneth R. Timmerman

Tuesday, Nov. 15,2005

VIENNA, Austria -- International Atomic Energy Agency DirectorGeneral Mohammad ElBaradei is pressing members of the agency's boardof governors to give Iran "one last chance" before sending Iran'scase to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions,IAEA officials and European diplomats told Newsmax in Vienna.

The decision to refer Iran to the UN Security Council could come onThanksgiving Day, when the IAEA Board of Governors has its nextscheduled meeting to discuss "new information" discovered byinspectors in Iran, the officials said.

Readthe full story of Iran’s twenty-year record of cheat andretreat in Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdownwith Iran. Available from

ElBaradei discussed a potential "face-saving" deal Europeannegotiators could offer Tehran during meetings with U.S. Secretary ofState Condoleeza Rice in Washington on Tuesday, U.S. and IAEAofficials said.

"Our message to Iran is that they have an opportunity to influencethe timing and nature of the report to the UN Security Council," aState Department official said.

Portions of the offer, which the Europeans have not embraced, wereleaked to the New York Times, which reported on Thursday that Iranwould be allowed to continue to produce uranium hexafluoride gas(UF6), the feedstock used for uranium enrichment, as long as itexported the product to Russia where it would be enriched to producereactor-grade fuel.

But a European official directly involved in the negotiations withTehran denied that the Russia proposal was even on the table, andsaid the New York Times report was false.

"There is no offer," he told Newsmax in Vienna today. "Why should wemake an offer? The Iranians must come to us" since they were the oneswho had reneged on their promises to suspend all enrichment-relatedactivities.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice also denied the New York Timesreport. "There is no U.S.-European proposal for the Iranians. I wantto say that categorically," she said on Thursday.

An IAEA official present at the Washington, DC meetings where theidea was discussed found other inaccuracies in the New York Timesaccount. "The idea is to allow Iran to make uranium tetrachloride(UF4) - not UF6 - and to keep it under strict IAEA monitoring," theofficial said. "A moratorium or a total ban on all fuel cycleactivities is a non-starter, because of [Iranian] nationalpride."

The U.S. continues to push for a "renewed suspension" of all nuclearfuel processing and enrichment in Iran, a State Department officialsaid. "This is the bar that has been set by the IAEA, and these areour instructions: Iran must renew suspension, renew cooperation withthe IAEA, and resume negotiations with the EU3."

The IAEA believes Iran could agree to limit work at Isfahan to UF4because trial production runs of UF6, which is made from UF4, havebeen "crap," a senior IAEA official said. "The quality is just nogood. This will allow Iran to save face."

The European official, who had just emerged from a meeting in Viennaof the political directors of the three European Union countries(France, Germany and the UK), insisted that ElBaradei had notpresented the U.S. offer as a done deal or even as an informalproposal. "Lots of ideas are being discussed," he said.

He called it "something someone wants to float. A trial balloon."European and U.S. officials insisted that it was not up to ElBaradeito lobby the board or to float proposals, but to report the resultsof IAEA inspections in Iran. "Only the board makes decisions," aState Department official said.

An IAEA official present at the meeting in Washington said thatSecretary of State Rice had asked ElBaradei to be "the messenger boy"to Tehran. "Since the Secretary General would like to find a solutionthat does not send Iran's case to the UN Security Council, he had noproblem with that," the official said.

Diplomats in Vienna speculated that the U.S. offer, which would allowIran to invest in an enrichment facility in Russia but not to enrichuranium itself, was designed to win Russian support at the SecurityCouncil should Iran veto the offer, which is expected.

The EU-3 are working on a non-paper they will circulate before theNov. 24 board meeting that "lays out our red lines and the principlesthat must underpin" an eventual agreement, the EU official said.

The IAEA is trying to convince Board of Governors members thatreferring Iran to the UN Security Council could prompt Iran's radicalnew president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to expel IAEA inspectors fromIran.

"It's much better to keep IAEA inspectors in Iran than to send Iranto the UN Security Council in New York without a strategy," a topIAEA official told Newsmax in Vienna. "They did that three years agowith North Korea. And look where we are now"

Iran's new nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has threatened to tossout IAEA inspectors if the Board of Governors refers their case tothe UN Security Council for possible sanctions. Larijani, aRevolutionary Guards intelligence officer, once headed Iran's statebroadcasting agency.

"At least now Iran is respecting the Additional Protocol," the IAEAofficial said. The Additional Protocol requires Iran to provideextensive information on previously clandestine nuclear facilitiesand to allow international inspectors to visit undeclared sitesthroughout the country.

Since signing the Additional Protocol on December 18, 2003, however,Iran has delayed particularly sensitive inspections for six monthsand more.

In the case of a suspected uranium enrichment plant in Lavisan-Shian,a Revolutionary Guards base in northern Tehran, Iran razed thesuspect facilities and carted away the rubble before it would let theIAEA onto the site.

Despite the clear pattern of cheat and retreat, the EU-3 agrees withElBaradei that some solution must be found to prevent sending Iran tothe UN Security at the end of this month.

"So we go to New York, the inspectors get tossed out, and we get awar. Then what have we achieved?" the European official said.

Bush administration officials argue that Iran has violated itssafeguards agreements with the atomic agency so flagrantly and sooften that its actions constitute a breach of Article II of theTreaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Article II contains an absolute, irrevocable pledge by signatorystates to abandon nuclear weapons research of any kind. In exchange,the nuclear weapons states agree to transfer nuclear technology tothem for civilian purposes.

The problem is that the technology needed to enrich uranium to fourpercent to fuel civilian power reactors, is identical to what'sneeded to enrich uranium to 93 percent to make weapons.

"Iran argues that it is promoting the peaceful use of nucleartechnology. It is not. It is subverting peaceful use to pursue adangerous course," U.S. ambassador Greg Scholte told the IAEA boardin August.

"Iran has no need for its heavy investment in an indigenous fuelcycle. Unless, of course, it wants nuclear weapons. Iran doesn't evenhave enough natural uranium to enrich for a civil nuclear program.But it has enough for a small stockpile of nuclear weapons," Scholteadded. Brazil, Japan, Germany, Holland, Australia and othernon-weapons states also have built fuel cycle facilities. Until now,the IAEA has only placed enrichment plants under safeguards, noturanium conversion plants such as the Isfahan plant in Iran.

"With Iran, we realized that mastery of the fuel cycle makes you avirtual nuclear weapons state," the senior IAEA official said. "Thatwas a wake-up call for all of us." It also explains why the IAEA isinsisting that Iran's conversion facility in Isfahan remain undersafeguards.

The IAEA has no authority to judge breaches of the NPT. Only the UNSecurity Council has that authority. "It is important to refer Iran'scase to the Security Council, which alone has the legitimacy and theauthority of the international community," former French nuclearpolicy analyst Therese Delpech told a conference in Washington, DClast week.

Copyright 2005, Kenneth R. Timmerman